On the face of it, 2016 was a shocking year, particularly in the world of celebrities where many of them seemed to be dropping like flies. My husband says statistically it probably does make sense; the celebrity world is huge, and many of them didn’t look after themselves when they were younger. Despite that possibly being true, knowing these talented people will never share another song, or film, or story etc is sad and surreal.
Personally though, 2016, the first year working as an artist, has been my most enjoyable year since I was 17. That might sound sad, but seventeen was hard to beat: learning to drive which meant loads more freedom, ALevels (days and days spent in the art classroom – Hi Mrs J), dating my future husband, going on loads of scout adventures. Nearly 10 years on, and I think I’ve finally found how to be as happy as I was then. I can hear some of my friends saying, “told you so! I still don’t get why you didn’t go to art college.”
But the truth is, I don’t regret my path in life; I mean what is the point? I’ve ended up with great teaching skills, and have still enjoyed using them in 2016. Art and teaching have even started merging, where I’ve been asked to teach art or ‘do an art day’ for a school. It has been great. Plus, I’d miss teaching Maths if I gave up teaching altogether.
‘Kipling’s Jungle’ was partly inspired by a school’s Topic for the term.
So, what has ‘Sarah Miles Art Studio’ achieved (and not achieved – yet) in 2016?
Looking back on my original business plan, I wanted to have been commissioned three times for artwork in 2016. It turns out I rather underestimated that, and have not been without a commission on the go all year. In fact I have another three on the go already. Thanks to all those people who have paid me to do what I love – I have been overjoyed every time I have handed you your personal custom made artworks, and seen such an honest and delighted reaction from you all.
Above are some paintings, commissioned by or inspired by my followers.
This year I also have been a vendor at two Christmas markets, and also at a charity event. I didn’t sell anything at the charity event, but it did lead to one of the Christmas markets and a commission. At both Christmas markets I made sales, took many orders, and made my money back on the stall and parking; apparently that is every vendor’s goal! Anything else is a bonus! I am very thankful to the people who organised the events, and the friendly neighbouring vendors and my husband for supporting me with these markets. I had no idea what to expect previously.
I have a beautiful, striking logo – thanks to Tom Allen @ Stormcomponents Ltd. He asked me to make some paint splodges to help him create it, and I think the bright colours and fun smiley face represent the happy and energetic person I am, and the creative, exciting environment I work in. One of my friends asked me what my USP (Unique Selling Point) is, and my first thought was ‘me’. Unlike your stereotypical artist, I’m friendly and smiley! But I don’t think this is what my friend meant. I think I’m still finding out my USP, whatever that is for artists.
I have been selling on Etsy (my online shop), and I have sold about as much as I thought I would in the first year. I started it in April, and so over eight months I have made five sales online. That may not sound great, but I have heard Etsy can be slow when you’re starting out. I have plans to improve this, so we will see if next year I can write that I had more than 5 online sales in eight months!
So, lots achieved then. I want this blog to be honest though, taking the highs with the lows. For example, as much as I love the ice hockey linos (and they have been popular amongst hockey lovers), getting the interest of bigger fish is trickier than I thought. Whether I still pursue this in 2017, I am not yet sure. I may just do the odd lino design for anyone who would like one, or create whole other designs. It is nice to have a break from painting and do lino printing sometimes.
What have I learned?
This year I have learned to paint with oil paints (oil paints, where have you been all my life?) and used YouTube and my David Sheppard book to help me learn to use them. I looked for a tutor to teach me to use oils, but it seems most tutors only like to teach watercolours. I guess watercolours have a less offensive smell, and it is easier to not ruin your paintbrushes.
Throughout the year, I have been learning about various websites and how to promote my work on there. Some of this is quite enjoyable, for example I like making the videos to put onto YouTube, and posting on Facebook is so easy and I love the interaction with my followers. Etsy has been a good online store, although I’m still looking for that magic spell to make more sales on there. Other sites like Instagram and Pinterest I still feel like I’m getting to grips with, and blogging on here I am really lazy at. I just forget. Blogging and SEO stuff (Search Engine Optimisation), should be on my New Year’s resolution list- but I fall asleep every time I’m about to write them on.
I still feel like I am ‘finding my style’, but the idea of Fantasy bleeding through into Reality, or paintings based on stories seemed to be a favourite at the markets. Perhaps these ideas will end up being ‘me’, and maybe will be my ‘USP’, if that is what it is for an artist. Maybe someone will tell me. Here is my favourite painting of the year, and despite having a big ugly troll in it, seemed to be the most popular with my followers too.
One final tit-bit I can share with beginning entrepreneurs: I have learned business can sometimes be like dating. If someone says they promise to call you or whatever, that doesn’t mean that they will. It would be less annoying if they were just honest, but apparently it is easier to say what you don’t mean and waste everyone’s time. Thankfully, most of the people I have met are not like this, especially if they love your product and what you do!